The New Role for IT: Strategic Visionaries

When we talk about digital transformation, we often talk about the corporate leaders who are leading their companies into a brighter digital future. IT is merely seen as the people who are charged with executing the plan (and the people who will take all the blame if something goes wrong, of course).

However, at many top organizations IT has claimed a seat at the table to not only have a say in a company’s strategic direction, but to actually drive it. No longer are CIOs and their teams tasked with just keeping email running and the servers online; they’re being relied on by the CEO, the board, individual departments and even customers to protect data, drive innovation and deliver a top-quality product experience.

That’s because, more and more, all companies are becoming digital-driven companies. From the assembly line to R&D to customer service to day-to-day operations, IT provides the infrastructure, support and insights needed for everyone else to be able to do their job.

As a result, IT from the CIO all the way down to the staff needs to think about their work not just in terms of solving technical problems, but in the context of solving business problems. That means understanding the company’s objectives so they can better leverage technology to become a true partner to the business.

For many top CIOs, this change in perspective is already taking place. Gartner reports that 84% of CIOs from top digital performers have responsibilities outside of IT, with innovation and digital transformation topping the list. These IT leaders also report that their performance metrics are weighed more heavily on the business side, with 56% of their metrics related to business outcomes vs. 44% related to IT delivery. They also report that they’re spending two days more per month on average on the business executive side of their job compared to just three years ago.

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CIOs from top digital performers that have responsibilities outside of IT, with innovation and digital transformation topping the list.

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IT leaders who report that their performance metrics are weighed more heavily on the business side.

2

Number of days these IT professionals are spending per month on average on the business executive side of their job compared to just three years ago.

While this is how top CIOs work today, it’s also a preview of how all CIOs and IT teams will be working tomorrow. Soon IT will be judged more on how they meet business objectives than how they meet IT delivery objectives. That means IT teams need to start taking the time now to understand not only the technical side of their business, but the business side of their business.

Take video delivery, for example. The typical IT person might only think about the delivery of a video in terms of the impact it will have on the network. However, if the video is that of a CEO delivering a major presentation to employees around the world, IT needs to also prioritize things like video quality, deliverability and reliability. By understanding why a company is undertaking a new digital initiative like video streaming, video on demand training, cloud software and more, IT can then better connect the work they do with the overall strategic objectives.

What can CIOs and other IT staff do to become more strategic?

  • Gain visibility at the C-Suite level: It’s crucial that the CIO and other IT leaders have constant exposure to the CEO, line of business managers, and even the board. The more IT can be represented during the strategy phase, the better IT can understand the business goals behind their work so they can make recommendations appropriately.
  • Become a true partner in the business: This can mean building out your team’s skill set to go beyond just hardware and software to include skills like machine learning, design and analytics.
  • Flawless execution: It’s a fact in business, and especially in IT–no one remembers all the times you did it right, only the one time it went wrong. But with IT now powering the infrastructure of the entire enterprise, when things go wrong they often go wrong spectacularly. One missed security patch no longer makes email a little buggy. Instead, it exposes your company to cybercriminals, ransomware, and the loss of millions of dollars and customer data. IT needs to make sure the technologies it uses get it right every time.

Instead of a team of techies, the IT department of the very near future will be a team of business leaders. The more you can put the right technology and people in place to support and inform strategic decisions, the sooner your company will be able to unleash the true potential of your IT department.

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